Our Favorite Independent Brand Releases of 2018

One of the more popular blog posts of last year was my article detailing my favorite releases of 2017, I think in large part due to the growing market for small independent watch companies and inflow of new microbrand enthusiasts. Part of the reason why I wrote that article is because I am a watch enthusiast before an entrepreneur. I started this company with Cullen because of my love for watches. I thought that maybe, just maybe, if I started a watch company, it would curb the buying habits, but alas, that has proven to be totally false.

On top of that, we regularly get inquiries from customers and fans of the brand wondering if all we wear is Nodus, and if not, what other watches we wear. The easy answer would be Seiko, Omega, Doxa, and all the other brands that are considered staples of any WIS’ collection. A much harder and more thoughtful answer would be one that talks about some of the brands whose owners we’ve gotten to know personally, many of which inspired us to start Nodus and continue to inspire us everyday. As of late, I find wearing watches from these smaller independent brands more often than the larger established ones anyways. Without further ado, these are my favorite releases of 2018:

Photo credit: mkiiwatches.com

Photo credit: mkiiwatches.com

MK II Cruxible

Everyone knows that I am a big fan of MK II. They were one of the pioneers of this growing microbrand market. I haven’t yet gotten my hands on a benchcrafted piece from MK II, but both of the RTW models have come through my collection, and frankly, based on their build quality, I think a benchcrafted piece can wait just a little longer. Last year, the Paradive made the list for my favorite releases, and MK II is the only brand from last year that has made my list this year as well.

The new Cruxible is everything I want in a field watch and more. The standout feature to me is the lume at 12, 3, 6 and 9 and the “hidden” logo, achieved by applying a contrasting glossy texture to the logo itself, while the rest of the dial maintains a coarse matte texture.

The EMG Nemo Photo credit: Yours truly

The EMG Nemo
Photo credit: Yours truly

EMG Nemo

When I first saw renders of the EMG Nemo, I was intrigued. When I met one of the masterminds behind it at the Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair last September, I was blown away by the watch. The level of quality on the BoR bracelet was astounding, not even considering the price point that they are selling this watch at.

The dial features a clean design that is broken up by a contrasting chapter ring, a look that seems to have become a design trend in 2018. EMG and HKED absolutely nailed the pantones on the dial colors. I look forward to owning a Nemo diver in yellow in the near future.

The Raven Trekker Photo credit: yours truly

The Raven Trekker
Photo credit: yours truly

Raven Trekker

I admit, this one is a bit of a cheat. The Raven Trekker was first introduced in 2016 (if I remember correctly) and immediately sparked my interest. I had one #OnLoandFromABro last year and came super close to making an offer. The one thing that held me back was the the one I had on loan had a white seconds hand. When I went to Seattle last March, I got a chance to see the variant with the yellow seconds hand (thanks @jconli) and knew immediately that was the one I wanted; that is, until 2018, when Raven unveiled the new generation of Trekkers with the blue dial, yellow seconds hand, and stainless steel bezel.

Everything I wanted in a Trekker, Raven implemented and I’m now a proud owner of a Raven Trekker. Meeting Steve, someone who’s served as an inspiration to us since day one, was an honor and being able to add one of his pieces to my collection is something I’ve looked forward to for a long time.

Traska Freediver

This is the first watch on the list that I actually personally added to my collection. I met the company’s founder, Jon, in Hong Kong during our September trip. After meeting for a couple of beers, I took the Freediver production model that he was wearing right off his wrist, and I am proud to say it was the first production model out in the world. As Traska’s first model, the Freediver is a solid demonstration of toeing the line between utility and elegance. I’m super excited to see what Traska puts out as their follow up to the Freediver.

The Freediver is more on the “dressy" side of the spectrum, but with the SS bezel that I opted for (yes, I have a thing for SS bezels) it is easy to knock around on a hike, in the pool, or in the kitchen.

The Traska Freediver, EMG Nemo, and Raven Trekker side by side. Photo credit: yours truly

The Traska Freediver, EMG Nemo, and Raven Trekker side by side.
Photo credit: yours truly


Seals Dark Seal

Obviously, my taste tends to gravitate towards sport and dive watches. This model by Seals is an example of a modern sports watch, with its easy to read dial, 200m water resistance, and hefty and durable case. I got a chance to see one in New York at WindUp last November and the thing is built like a tank. It wasn’t until later when I was browsing the Seals website when I learned that the entire brand was conceptualized when the founder, Michael Seals, turned a sketch of a tank into one of a watch.

The Dark Seal comes with either a 12 hour bezel or a fixed bezel, something that, for whatever reason, became a trend in 2017. However, the Dark Seal does something really cool with the fixed bezel. The case itself is 40mm, while the bezel overhangs slightly at 41mm. It gives it a super tough look without adding much additional heft.

That about wraps up 2018, albeit a little late. I hear whispers of some cool things happening from other microbrand owners, so I have a feeling next years list will look vastly different from this years. If you keep an eye on our Instagram, we are going to be posting tons of footage from WindUp SF later this month, and you may or may not see some of the cool releases that I anticipate - at least a couple of which will likely top my list of favorite releases of 2019.